I never took a creative writing class in high school. In fact, I didn't care much for English class, always opting to do some kind of alternative communication project when available (think videotaped speech, pantomime, or interpretive dance), rather than write a paper. Maybe if they'd called it Language Arts, like they do now, I'd have been more interested.
In college, the only English class I took was a required technical writing course. Why did engineers need to learn how to write anyway?
In graduate business school, we had plenty of writing to do, but it wasn't very creative, unless you thought playing buzzword bingo counted ("searching for synergistic solutions and proactively pursuing paradigms is all well and good, but moving forward at the end of the day..."). Creativity was mostly limited to accounting. (CEO to CFO: "Do you know how much 2 plus 2 is?" CFO: "Sure. Whatever you want it to be, boss.")
It wasn't until many years later that I decided to write fiction. I'd always been a voracious reader, so how hard could writing be?
My first efforts weren't pretty.
But I took a few writing workshops, got into some good critique groups, and, um, read a lot of books about writing.
A few favorites:
On Writing by Stephen King
Write the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass
How to Write A Damn Good Mystery by James N. Frey (not that James Frey!)
Don't Murder Your Mystery by Chris Roerden
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
There are tons of other books on the "How To Write" shelves. Some offer step-by-step plans, some put you through "boot camps," and some promise to help you churn out a book in a month or six weeks or ninety days. Whatever works for you.
Me? I usually feel like I'm just winging it.
What's helped you with your writing? Any special books? MFAs? Writer retreats? A six-pack on the back porch every night?
(This entry is “simul-posted” on InkSpot.)